An art lover and dear friend to so many street artists, East Village–based Steve Stoppert is a local legend. True to his motto, “Just Paint,” he is the force behind one of NYC’s most visible public spaces – the wall facing the Second Avenue subway station. Dozens of artists have painted there, and dozens more wait their turn. Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Steve in his Second Avenue apartment that brims with art — from floor to ceiling — in just about every media and style.

We are fortunate that you have made New York City your home. Where were you born? And what brought you here?

I was born in Pontiac, Michigan — a northern suburb of Detroit. I came here in 1992 for two weeks to remodel my sister’s bathroom. And I never left. She was living on East 6th Street at the time.

What was it about NYC that so drew you in?

The music scene. It was magic!  Seeing the Pavement at the Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side. Hanging out at CBGB on the Bowery…

And what about NYC’s art scene?

I used to go on my own to the Met. But it wasn’t until an artist friend took me on a tour of the museum and introduced me to Cézanne that something clicked!

What is your first street art/graffiti-related memory?

Definitely Shepard Fairey. Seeing Andre the Giant everywhere!

And how did you become so deeply involved with the current scene?

I started going out with Fumero late at night. I was his “look-out.” I remember thinking, “If only I’d had an aerosol can in my hand when I was 15!”

How has the street art scene changed since you first began paying attention to it? 

It’s different. These days, there are lots of fluffy paste-ups, and just about everyone is documenting it. But I still love it.

What is your favorite aspect of the scene?

I love the hunt. When I first began in 2010, I was obsessed with Jim Joe. I used to hunt for him daily. I chased him everywhere between the Lower East Side and Tribeca competing with folks on Tumblr for the most Jim Joe sightings.

For the past several years you’ve been curating a hugely visible wall right on your block. How do you decide which artists to feature?

I have a list of about 80-100 artists who’ve approached me. We simply select a name at random from a hat. Each month the wall changes.

What has the experience been like?

I love it. I love working with artists. I don’t even mind when they’re flakey or late. I just go with it.

How do you deal with the ever-present politics in this scene?

I ignore it completely.

Do any memorable experiences stand out? 

Fun times! When City Kitty got up on the wall and changed it 6-8 times within three months. And, of course, riding on my bike at 3am to 4am with flashlight and bike light – not knowing what I will see that I haven’t seen before.

What do you see as the future of this scene?

It seems to be at an all-time high with its increasing appeal to commercial buildings and high-end hotels.

Yes! It certainly has changed since I first fell in love with it! And we are thrilled that you are doing what you are doing. The wall that you curate is one of our faves.

Images:

1. Steve Stoppert in front or wall painted last Sunday by Key Detail

2, Noted California-born artist and musician Paul Kostabi

3. The itinerant Sirus Fountain aka Pyramid Oracle

4. Bronx-based Zimad

5. Brooklyn-based Argentine artists Magda Love and Sonni

6. The prolific Optimo NYC aka Optimo Primo, Werds and No Sleep

7. Brooklyn-based Argentine artist Ramiro Davaro-Comas

Interview conducted by Lois Stavsky and Ana Candelaria and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1-3 & 5 Lois Stavsky; 4, 6 & 7 Ana Candelaria

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Opening this Saturday, November 9 at 9127 East 5th Street in Downtown Los Angeles is “The Streets Are Queer.” Presented by In Heroes We Trust and Rainbow Walls, it features works by over two dozen self-identifying queer North American artists who have left their mark on our streets. Featured above is LA-based figurative painter and muralist David Puck at work on a portrait of Vanessa Vanjie. Several more public works by a small sampling of the artists featured in “The Streets Are Queer” follow:

Brooklyn-based photographer and filmmaker, Daniel “Dusty” Albanese aka the Dusty Rebel, currently at work on a book and documentary about queer street art

New Orleans-based Brooklyn-native Hugo Gyrl

The itinerant São Paulo-native Suriani

NYC-based Patron Saint of the Underground Jilly Ballistic 

UK-based duo The Postman

LA-based Homo Riot

Curated by Homo Riot,”The Streets Are Queer” continues through December 7.

All photos courtesy the gallery

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Currently living between Paris and Los Angeles, Belgium-born filmmaker Cedric Godin was recently in New York City for the US premiere of his award-winning film, “X art,” at the Chelsea Film Festival. After viewing the insightful film and panel discussion featuring Patty Astor, Henry Chalfant, Enrique Torres aka Part One and Nick Walker — moderated by Marie Cecile Flageul — we  posed a few questions to Cedric.

What inspired you to produce this film?

I had just completed my first film, PTSD, and had returned from California to Paris. I wanted to get back to work as soon as possible, and as I was seeing street art exhibitions and events everywhere, I decided to do a documentary about the street art movement and culture. Even though I had followed the movement since 2012, I never really thought of doing something on it until I returned to Paris from California.

What is the significance/meaning of your film’s title, “X art?”

After I decided to do a documentary, I started to research the street art culture. Rapidly, I realized how complex the world of street art is. So many artists, techniques, movements, markets… It appeared to me that as street art is such a huge subject, it would be an interesting challenge to get people to better understand it. I had a working title but after a few months “X art” came, as the X suggested “the unknown,” “the transgression,” “the X factor” and more.

So I chose the letter X to start  from “the unknown” —  in order to learn and digress to a point where it would become clearer for an audience and hopefully awaken within viewers the curiosity to investigate the culture on their own after seeing the film.

How did you go about choosing/deciding which artists to focus on?

They had to have a career, a real social or political message in their work, a continuity in their journey and an artistic goal. It was important for me that the artists had enough experience on every level to be able to transmit their passion, techniques and journey to as large an audience as possible.

When did you begin filming “X art”

I started to meet with artists in 2016.

In the film there is a focus not only on the artists and their artwork, but also on the art market. Why did you choose to turn your lens on this aspect of the scene?

Simply because these days, you can’t avoid the financial aspects of things. Fortunately or unfortunately, the market has a big influence on how artists develop their careers. Of course, there are pros and cons, but I wanted to give the audience an idea of what’s happening. From there they could visit galleries, events and auction houses and form their own opinions on the subject.

Did anything in your findings particularly surprise you? In what ways may have making this film personally impacted you? Do you find yourself paying more attention to street art and graffiti?

Of course, I do pay more attention. It is funny to see how my eye, three years later, is more “educated.” When I see a painting or a wall, I can recoup more information to understand and form an opinion on that particular piece. I have also learned how to be a good collector.

What were some of the challenges you faced in seeing this project through?

The usual challenge of being an “indie” filmmaker… time and money. Fortunately, the world of street art is a very generous world for the most part. 99% of the artists were just amazingly helpful. My friend and partner Olivier Le Quellec, a street art fan, financed the project with me. Dotmaster and Ben Eine, two famous UK-based artists, offered to design the poster. Eric Brugier, the French gallerist, connected me to several artists who themselves connected me to more. I think you can’t get into this world if you are not well-connected, but once you are in, you feel like a family member.

How have viewers responded to it?

Amazingly! The most touching thing is when people come up to me and say they have learned something; some are even motivated to further research artists or elements they weren’t aware of.  To me, if filmmaking has a purpose. It is to learn and to transmit.

What would you like your viewers to walk away with?

The will to go deeper into the subject  —  to read, to research, to see events, to meet artists. And we have an incredible chance to be able to do it.

What’s next?

Ideally to secure distribution for “X art,” as I humbly think that this little film has its cultural role to play. I’m currently working on a TV show and a feature film. I work in so many directions these days that I couldn’t tell you what is going to happen next…I will let you know very soon!

Congratulations on “X art.  We certainly hope it is widely distributed and, yes, we are looking forward to what’s next!

Images:

  1. Film poster designed by UK-based artists Dotmaster and Ben Eine
  2. Cedric Godin
  3. Film clip featuring Ben Eine and Pure Evil
  4. Parisian graffiti artist Nasty
  5. Patti Astor, co-founder of the legendary FUN Gallery
  6. Henry Chalfant, noted American photographer and videographer, whose current exhibit, Art vs. Transit, 1977-1987, at the Bronx Museum is a must-see!
  7. The famed UK-born street artist Nick Walker at “X art” Chelsea screening

Photo credits 1, 2, 4 – 6 courtesy Cedric Godin; 7 Ana Candelaria 

Interview questions: Houda Lazrak, Ana Candelaria and Lois Stavsky

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The following guest poet is by Lower East Side-based photographer Ana Candelaria

This past Saturday, I joined a group of 21 Shooters Street Art hunters, scouring the streets of SoHo and Tribeca. On a mission, organized by Shooters Street Art founder Omar Lopez aka Omar Victorious, we competed to be the first to locate 17 wheatpastes featuring works by one of my favorite street artists, Dee Dee Was Here. After our two-hour search had ended, and the winner, John Domine, was presented with an exclusive original print, Dee Dee, who remained undisclosed throughout the hunt, offered me her feedback:

How do you feel about the concept behind the Shooters Street Art Scavenger Hunt?

I love the concept. I love walking in the city myself, just wandering. It reminds me of back when I came upon art that I loved…like Bäst  and Aiko. It was a great surprise to run into one. The idea of bringing a group of people together for a fun day in October outside to find art was too good to pass up!

This hunt seemed to motivate you to put up even more work on the streets.

Honestly, it only motivated me more THIS week. I did look around SoHo with a new eye to put a few more out, as I wanted it to be really fun for everyone. Not everything was new. I brought some old favorites out, since I know that some people may be new to me and not know them. It was a nice overview of pieces from the past few years.

What inspires your works?

All of mine are inspired differently. Each has a story and a mood I am trying to convey. A lot starts with songs; then a story begins from there.

How does it feel to have so many people hunting for you?

It’s a little overwhelming, really! I am very lucky. I am told over and over how many people deeply connect with my work  — on a very personal level. One gallery owner once told me, “Your fans don’t love you; they LOVE you!” I feel that, and I feel very connected to them. I make my art for me. It’s the art that I want to see, so having everyone excitedly coming to find it is quite amazing. The fact that it makes them happy and they get to enjoy the day — while making new friends — is just icing on a pretty great cake.

What was it like to participate anonymously in this Shooters Street Art Scavenger Hunt?

I also got to enjoy it out there myself — as a few people ran right by me to find their next location. It’s Halloween, and I get to be a real-live ghost. What could be more fun that that?

Thank you so much, Dee Dee. We loved it. I greatly appreciate your feedback and kindness. I can’t get over how much fun I had on this hunt. It was filled to the brim with excitement. 

My pleasure. I wanted to do something fun for Halloween, and we had such a beautiful day for it. So many people told me what a great time they had…we may have to do it again sometime.

Interview and photos by Ana Candelaria

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I love when artists bring their talents to NYC public schools, not only beautifying them but also conveying positive messages that encourage dialog. And the best of these projects involve and reflect the members of the immediate community. Prospect Heights-based Jeff Beler has done it again! Following his wonderful transformation of PS 9, he has recently brought his passion and curatorial skills to PS 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. While there this past Thursday, as several artists were adding finishing touches to a huge wall in PS 321‘s school yard, I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Jeff:

This looks great! I’m so glad you guys are bringing your talents to local schools. How did this come to happen? 

PS 321 PTA co-president Lauren Gropp Lowry had seen the STEAM Mural Project I had curated over at PS 9. She, along with other PS 321 parents liked what they saw and wanted to bring a similar project to their children’s school. And they, then, proposed the idea to their school’s principal.

When did this project, No Place for Hate, begin? 

We began talking about it in June, but we didn’t want to start it until the school year began. We wanted the members of the school community involved in every aspect of its planning.

And what about the theme of it? How was that chosen?

There was a general consensus that the emphasis would be on promoting tolerance and kindness and taking a strong stand against bullying. And the students at PS 321 came up with the specific concepts.

How did you decide which artists to engage in seeing No Place for Hate through?

Through the projects I’ve curated in the past — particularly UnderHill Walls and the STEAM Mural Project at PS 9 — I’ve developed  many close relationships with artists. I have a strong sense of which artists I can trust to show up on schedule and which artists work well together. Among the artists who participated in this current project are: Subway Doodle, Justin Winslow, Jaima, Calicho Arevalo, Marco Santini, My Life in Yellow, Majo, Paulie Nassar, Raddington Falls, AJ Lavilla, Zero Productivity and Paolo Tolentino.

And I notice that you have students, parents and various members of the community involved today. You even have a local architect, @krassness, adding details to your buildings!

Yes, many members of the school community and folks who live in the neighborhood  have been involved, lending us their skills, since we began painting.

What were some of the challenges you faced in seeing this through?

I can’t think of any. Everything has gone so smoothly. And we’ve had wonderful sponsors. Among them are: Blick Art Materials, Starbucks Art Program, The Corcoran Group, Tarzian Hardware and Hanson Place Orthodontics.

How have folks responded to No Place for Hate? They seem to love it!

Yes! The response has been great!

Congratulations!

Images:

1. My Life in YellowJustin WinslowJeff Beler and more

2. Majo (pictured standing), Zero Productivity and Jeff Beler (pictured standing)

3. Calicho Arevalo and more

4. Subway Doodle and Paolo Tolintino 

5. Justin Winslow and Zero Productivity

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky; 4 City-as-School intern Sage Ironwood and 5 City-as-School intern Angelize Santiago 

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The wonderfully talented Menace Two and Resa Piece have merged their sensibilities and skills to fashion a captivatingly stunning array of murals that have made their way not only throughout NYC, but across the country. I was delighted to have the opportunity meet up with them in their Bushwick home that they’ve aptly titled “Street Art Sanctuary ” — a spacious  graffiti/street art haven that Menace and Resa also host as an Airbnb. 

When and where did you first get up? And what inspired you to do so?

Resa: I started in 2015. The first wall I ever did was in the Bronx, but I painted mostly in Brooklyn at the time – often in Bushwick. What inspired me to? While I was living in Flushing, I used to regularly ride past 5Pointz on the 7 train. I thought it was all so amazing. I remember thinking, “Why would someone do this?” But it was awhile before I actually did it!   The sense that I had something to prove – that a female could create artwork on the same level as any established male artist — also drove me.

Menace: I was in the 7th grade in a local Queens public school. I was always drawing on my desk — anime at the time. One of the kids sitting next to me said I’d be good at graffiti. He introduced me to graffiti, encouraged me and invited me to join his crew, BTC. That was the beginning. I was 12 years old.

You’ve both painted in both illegal and in sanctioned places. Which do you prefer?

Illegal. Painting “without permission” is far more validating!

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings?

The streets are our gallery.

What about the increasing engagement of street artists and graffiti writers with the corporate world? Would you consider such a collaboration?

It depends. No one can dictate to us what can or cannot do.

Have you any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

Our job is to bridge it! It’s all about respect.

What is your main source of income?

Painting commissions.

Did you have you a formal art education?

Resa: I did not attend a specialized art college, but at Binghamton, I majored in both Art History and Studio Art. I will always remain grateful to the late Professor George Dugan for his support and encouragement.

Menace: I studied Graphic Design in college, but I never graduated.

How does your family feel about your passion for art?

Resa: My mom initially fostered it. She enrolled me in art classes when I was eight years old. But then when I wanted to go to an art college, her response was, “You’re too smart to be an artist.” And so she encouraged me to go into the art business. But after interning at Christy’s and working for a collector, I came to understand that the art market is driven by billionaires. I know now that I want to focus on creating my own art and not marketing other artists to the richest 1 per cent. And at this point, my mom understands and respects what I’m doing.

Menace: They intensely disliked my passion for graffiti. I was often getting into graffiti-related trouble in school, and any time my parents saw me writing graffiti, they’d scream at me.  They couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t just “draw something pretty.” My father and I fought just about every day. But my parents have since come to accept me. It helped that in honor of our mothers we painted a mural featuring a tiger mom embracing her cub for the Boogie Down event at the Bronx Zoo for Mothers Day, 2018.

When you paint in public spaces, do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?

We generally work with Photoshop mock-ups.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? 

Generally, we are.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

100 %.

Have you any other interests or passions?

Resa: Not many.

Menace: Video games.

Are there any particular cultures that have inspired your aesthetic?

Hip-hop and New York flavor, in general.

Who are some of your favorite artists? Artists who have inspired you?

Resa: There are so many – BK Foxx, Royyal Dog, El Mac, Meres, Jerms, Topaz, Seen, Skeme

Menace:Reach Eight, Glossblack, Revok, Saber, MSK

How has your work evolved in recent years?

It’s gotten much better. While touring the country, we felt we had to prove something at each stop!

In your cross-country venture — #paintloveacrossamerica — you hit several key cities from Philly to LA painting a range of spectacular murals — some with permission and others without. Does any particular memory stand out?

When we had reached LA, we asked an established street art organization to help us find a legal wall. When assistance didn’t come our way, we found — on our own — one of the largest walls in the heart of the LA  arts district. When the cops rolled up, we didn’t know what to expect, but they expressed appreciation for our work. And when the owner came by, we convinced him that we are in the process of beautifying his property. The final mural — one of our favorite ones — is a visual representation of our collective prayers.

No doubt that what hat you painted was a gift  — however ephemeral — to the city!  What’s ahead?

More painting, of course! And our ultimate goal is to create a community center that serves as a base for us to teach painting and mural-making skills to others.

That sounds wonderful! And thanks for sharing your talents and visions with so many of us.

Images:

1 “Madonna Menace” in Bushwick, JMZ Walls

2 Close-up of Resa and Menace captured at work in Bushwick, JMZ Walls

3 “What a Wonderful World,” portrait of Louis Armstrong, in Esst Harlem, GrandScale Mural Project

4 “When the whole world is silent/Even one voice becomes powerful,” portrait of Malala in Bushwick

5 “Believe in the Reality of Your Dreams,” in Bushwick

6 “Real Eyes Realize Real Lies,” portrait of Tupac in Wynwood

7 “Protect,” Unsanctioned mural in LA’s arts district

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Photo credits: 1-3 Lois Stavsky; 4 & 5 Ana Candelaria; 6 & 7 Courtesy of  Menace and Resa

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From October 10 to October 14, BLINK Cincinnati  — a light and art event featuring large-scale projection mapping, light-based sculptures, interactive art, live performances and mural art — attracted close to 1.5 million people. Spanning over 30 city blocks from the banks of Northern Kentucky to downtown Cincinnati, it was the region’s largest event ever. While much of BLINK Cincinnati was ephemeral, the 16 murals produced are expected to be part of the region’s visual landscape for quite some time. Pictured above is the hugely talented Beau Stanton in front a segment of his mural depicting the Greek God Atlas “carrying the burden of the earth represented as a fragile object, a glass rose window sourced from the nearby Cincinnati music hall.”  Several more images — all captured by  travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad — follow:

The German duo Herakut, “The Young Can Learn From The Old Can Learn From The Young…”

LA-based Chris Chan Shim aka Royyal Dog

The Amsterdam-based The London Police; pictured here are Bob, Chaz, Chinny Bond and Chaz’s brother, Douglas.

The Amsterdam-based Colombian artist Chinny Bond, captured with Vintage Polaroid  SX-70 camera provided by B&H Photo

Puerto Rican artist Bikismo and his flying pig

 New York City-based Logan Hicks standing in front of his mural

LA-based South African artist Keya Tama sitting in front of his mural

Photos by Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad with sponsorship by B&H Photo

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The following guest poet is by Lower East Side-based photographer Ana Candelaria

After two decades of attending classes at Seward Park High School — when I wasn’t hanging out in the parking lot! — I was back. I never thought I would be. This time, though, it was to hang on the rooftop with some of my favorite graffiti and street artists. Featured above is  IMOK (If Mother Only Knew) Crew member Cycle at work. Several more works that I captured this past Saturday follow:

The masterly Queen Andrea

The legendary Part One

  Veteran graffiti writer Dez aka the wildly popular DJ Kay Slay — in the early stages 

Ex-Vandals Will Power and Albertus Joseph, tribute piece to WBO Featherweight Champion, Amanda Serrano

French artist and DJ Jaek El Diablo

The masterful Mast

Photos by Lower East Side-based photographer Ana Candelaria

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A free four-day event taking place from the banks of Northern Kentucky to downtown Cincinnati, BLINK Cincinnati is one of our nation’s largest light and art festivals. Under the curatorial direction of  BLINK partner The AGAR, over a dozen new murals are currently underway or near completion. Featured above is the increasingly itinerant ELLE at work. Several more images — all captured by  travel and street photographer Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad — follow: 

Polish artist Natalia Rak

Miami-based Tatiana Suarez

LA-based Chris Chan Shim aka Royyal Dog, captured with Vintage Polaroid  SX-70 camera provided by B&H Photo

NYC-based Logan Hicks and son with work-in-progress

Portuguese artist Vhils

South African artist Faith 47  (center) with her son, Keya Tama, and Tyler B Murphy — captured with Vintage Polaroid  SX-70 camera provided by B&H Photo

BLINK Cincinnati continues through this Sunday, October 13.

Photos by Karin du Maire aka Street Art Nomad with sponsorship by B&H Photo

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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This is the 15th in a series of occasional posts featuring the range of faces that have surfaced in NYC open spaces. The image above featuring Lauryn Hill was painted by the Brooklyn-based “dynamic duo,” Menace Two and Resa Piece with JMZ Walls.  Several more images of captivating faces that I’ve come upon in my relatively recent meanderings follow:

San Juan, Puerto Rico-based Son Coro in Bushwick

Mexican-born, NYC-based Maria De Los Angeles, painted on glass at Pratt Institute on West 14th Street

Netherlands-based Michel Velt at the Bushwick Collective

Asian-Canadian multi-media artist Jess X Snow, curated for Art in Ad Places by Dusty Rebel in the Village

Sicilian duo Rosk & Loste at the Bushwick Collective

UK-based Dreph at the GrandScale Mural Project in East Harlem

Photos by Lois Stavsky

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